Sure, testing your Eva synchronization rate in the entry plug is pretty cool, but so is the food faithfully recreated from the anime.

Given the longstanding success of various iterations of Neon Genesis Evangelion, fans of the popular anime have more than one real-world location in Japan they might visit to experience tie-ins with the fictional world settings. For instance, Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture is the real-world location of one of Evangelion‘s main settings, Tokyo-3 and Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture is currently housing a real-life version of Village-3 seen in the final Rebuild of Evangelion film.

As exciting as those stops are, nothing can beat the (possibly) life-size Evangelion statue within Toei Kyoto Studio Park in Uzumasa, Kyoto, a theme park tourist attraction which also serves as a functional filming location for films and dramas taking place in the Edo Period (1603-1868). Opened in October 2020, part of the park’s draw is that visitors can attempt to answer fictional agency NERV’s open recruitment call for new Evangelion pilots. Our Japanese-language correspondent Saya Togashi recently decided to pay the park a visit during a recent trip in the area.

The majority of the open set theme park faithfully recreates the atmosphere of an Edo-period street with lines of wooden buildings and shops. On this particular day, however, Saya made a beeline through the rows past Meiji Street and Nakazawa Theater, crossing the entrance into the Attraction Area.

Before long, a distinctly non-Edo period sight loomed into view: the Kyoto Evangelion Base.

▼ Eva Unit-01, the Evangelion piloted by protagonist Shinji Ikari

At 15 meters (49 feet) tall, the intricately crafted Unit-01 greets visitors with an outstretched palm that’s big enough for several people to stand on comfortably. You have to crane your neck to see the very top of its head.

The statue, by the way, is in the midst of emerging out of a pool of vividly red LCL, the oxygenized liquid inside of an Eva’s entry plug which allows its pilot to sync with it.

Speaking of entry plugs, you can even see what it’s like to go inside of one for yourself since NERV has constructed its Kyoto-3 branch right in this very spot.

Saya was ready to take the aptitude test to be an Eva pilot so she received her very own Entry ID card. Never mind that she’s almost three times older than the typical 14 years of age of Eva pilots–hopefully the Eva would think she looked more youthful than her actual age.

The test required climbing up to the fourth floor of the building structure to a boarding gate. Lo and behold, there was an actual entry plug right in front of her. Anyone can take a seat in the plug and measure their synchronization rate with the Eva. Saya was surprised to find that the seat itself was also pleasantly comfortable.

▼ Sadly, Saya never shared the results of her synchronization test.

Looking down from this vantage point, she could see the rest of Toei Kyoto Studio Park and the city of Kyoto sprawling before her as well. She felt quite tall already–but if the Eva were fully emerged from the LCL, she would probably be twice as high. It also occurred to her that not many wooden, traditional buildings had survived the Impacts in the world of Evangelion, but this viewpoint seemed to offer a glimpse into a parallel world where they had.

After descending back to the ground, Saya made sure to head over to the NERV Photo booth to receive a commemorative photo. Now, there are three main areas to take photos around Unit-01: the entry plug, the palm of the hand, and a small stage. The entry plug and the palm of the hand are equipped with a function to take automatic photos, even with no staff present, so solo visitors like Saya can easily get great shots of themselves. Think of it like the latest technology from NERV.

Once you’ve taken some photos, you can then use the Entry ID card to download and purchase them. Even better, each party of people receives one novelty photo card as a free service. This present tremendously pleased Saya, who doesn’t often fork over the money for commemorative travel photos.

▼ Saya’s free photo (the original doesn’t have the mosaic or face stamp)

She also noticed some other fun attractions on the grounds. First is a super-sized ema (wooden prayer plaque) with the main characters of Evangelion within a 2022 Year of the Tiger-themed illustration. A new 2023 Year of the Rabbit ema will be displayed beginning on December 17.

There’s also a store selling special collaborative goods called the “NERV Co-op.”

Finally, what Japanese pop culture collaboration would be complete without a collaboration cafe? Welcome to the NERV Cafe.

As tempting as the curry at the NERV Cafe was, Saya actually had her eye on a different meal at another eatery offering a variety of collaboration foods simultaneously–Kiraku Ramen.

Tie-in menu items at Kiraku that made her smile include such things as Rei Ayanami’s “Garlic ramen without the pork” and Asuka Langley Soryu’s “Shark fin soup with roast pork, large serving.” However the dish that she ordered was inspired by Toji Suzuhara’s family’s recipe.

▼ Suzuhara family’s zosui (rice gruel) set meal (900 yen [US$6.60])

This welcoming meal is featured as a spot of lightness amid the harsh lives of the characters in Rebuild of Evangelion. It’s simple stew with plenty of garnishes alongside pickled vegetables grown in Village-3 with the support of KREDIT. Saya couldn’t get enough of the real-life version–it warmed her body from the core.

Saya also reflected on how impressed she was with this menu faithfully recreated from within Evangelion‘s story. Many dishes at collaboration cafes are loosely inspired by specific characters as opposed to being taken directly from the plot, but this Suzuhara family dish allowed her to actually feel immersed in the story itself.

Evangelion Kyoto Base within the Toei Kyoto Studio Park is indeed a hidden gem within Kyoto. Giant sci-fi mecha don’t seem like the kind of thing that would mix with Japan’s ancient capital, but Saya believes that the Base has its own special charm that could appeal to anyone.

Come to think of it, it’s something of a miracle that the Evangelion statue itself hasn’t come to life and destroyed all of the buildings inside of the theme park. Hopefully they’ll have a better fate than the nearby structure known as Japan’s oldest restroom, which was partially damaged when a car backed into it recently. 

Reference: Evangelion Kyoto Base (Toei Kyoto Studio Park)
Photos © SoraNews24
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